I purchased my first smartphone in early 2009: a Blackberry Curve. At the time, it was the best phone Verizon offered, which only heightened my hate for AT&T for obvious reasons. That said, I needed a phone to make my various lives—work, personal, writing—a little easier to balance. Not sure if that occurred, but it certainly provided enough justification to use a free upgrade.
I’ve since left Blackberry behind for Google’s Android platform, specifically the Motorola Droid. Between the Curve and the Droid, I owned the Blackberry Tour—my fiancee’s current phone. While my Droid is a gadget nerd’s orgasmic fantasy, with its overclocked processor, custom ROM overlay and superuser access to files neither Motorola nor Verizon intended for me to reach, I find myself lusting for my fiancee’s Tour, though I know better.
For what its worth, my phone is superior in every way to the Tour—or any Blackberry. Research In Motion (RIM), the Canadian company behind the Blackberry hardware and software, lags behind Google and Apple with a slow browser, dusty user interface and mediocre app store. Yeah sure, Blackberry is still the king of email. But the gap continues to narrow as Android and iOS improves their support for Microsoft Exchange (aka the servers at your job that bombard you daily with memo emails and meeting requests).
It’s that damn keyboard.
What to say to a writer if he walked up to me, tears in eyes, magenta-colored Moto Razr in hand, and asked for a phone recommendation? As resident gadget freak in my family, I’ve honed a solid survey to ascertain an individual’s needs before I start throwing out my opinions. What do you want to do with the phone? Can you rattle off your top three needs? Are you partial to touchscreen keyboards? As I ask these questions, I can see the twinkle in people’s eyes. They’re simply waiting for me to recommend the iPhone. No dice. That’s to say, it’s not an automatic conclusion.
So if a writer said, “I hate touchscreen keyboards. Email is cool, but I’d like to blog on the phone as well, or at least jot down some notes for my Twilight novel—featuring mummies.”Â
“Then my friend,”Â I’d say with my hand on his shoulder, dismissing the sparkling mummy novel in progress, “Blackberry is your choice.”Â Now, I’d grapple with this advice for some time. As I said above, the Blackberry phone—take your pick in model—is archaic in comparison to other offerings. But if writing happens to make it on your top three list of cell phone needs, and typing on a glass slab just doesn’t rock your bells, as it was once said, then roll with Blackberry.
“But mensah,”Â the writer said, wiping his tears, “doesn’t your Droid have a keyboard?”Â
Yes. And it’s a piece of shit. Why do you think I miss my fiancee’s Tour? When I owned a Blackberry, my overall writing output was much higher. I blogged more. I started more stories. I tapped out more pieces of dialogue. All of this while at my day job, but that’s for another day. Anyway, writing with a Blackberry was easier and more comfortable than my Droid’s touchscreen keyboard. And the flat, tightly-packed crap that pretends to be the Droid’s slide-out physical keyboard is barely worth mentioning ever again.
So vitriol duly noted, why did I detox and leave behind the land of crack(berry)heads? I don’t know if there are separate categories for gadget love. I’m the type who’ll research my next purchase for weeks”â€months—before I pull the trigger. But research is always trumped by day to day, real world usage. Having to pull out the phone’s battery because the system froze, being tortured by the browser’s molasses rendering of my favorite sites, and scouring the Interwebs for third party apps as if scrounging for food in a post apocalyptic wasteland: all of this superseded the beauty, the elegance of Blackberry’s keyboard. Oh and not getting my email because RIM’s Blackberry servers experienced an outage–
Right now, Android Nation is obsessed with phones that have almost 50% of the iPad’s screen size (think about that for a second). Gigantic 4.3″Â glass and bezel tablets. Phones that need kickstands. Fair enough. All the world’s a media network and consumers want phones that double as displays for YouTube and such. Part of my decision to switch from Blackberry was because I’m not always a writer. I’m a businessman. I’m an average guy who occasionally romps around Twitter and Facebook. Sometimes I need quick access to the web to find an establishment’s phone number while out and about. And yes, YouTube is entertaining, albeit seldom (I’d prefer Netflix or Hulu on my phone instead).
Perhaps I should advise my imaginary writer a little differently. If writing is a part of his consideration for a new phone, and he demands a physical keyboard, then his options are limited. As far as smartphones go, Blackberry would offer him as much of a well-rounded experience as possible, its faults notwithstanding. Being a gadget lover also means being in tune, so to speak, with current trends.
Again, tablet phones are “in”Â for now. But it’s going to change—either because the market demands it or because manufacturers think the market demands it. No matter. Staying ahead of tech innovation, being the first on the block with a $600 phone is a losing (and expensive) battle. The good thing about tech is that it refuses to remain stagnant. I’d tell the writer to ditch the Razr, cop a Blackberry on eBay for less than $100, and keep that free upgrade in his back pocket. And wait.